Posted tagged ‘James Wesley’

15 Country Music Artists You Need on Your Playlist…Now!

November 21, 2016

Those who know me already know that I have a very eclectic playlist. My daily music spans country, rock, metal, rap and more. You name it…I listen to it!

However, today, I’m going to focus on a handful of country music artists that need to be on your playlist.

Some of these folks may already be in regular rotation on the radio. Some may have seen some airplay over the past couple years, and are now missing from everyday rotation. Others may be coming to a station near you in 2017.

The key thing here is that these artists are either unknown, or in my opinion, underplayed. Hopefully, that will change in the year to come!

These artists are listed in alphabetical order, but I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to scroll through each of them as they all deserve attention. I’ve been sure to include at least one of their videos so you can get a sample without having to click through link after link to hear them.

Without further ado, let’s get started:

A Thousand Horses

If you want to try to describe A Thousand Horses to someone who hasn’t seen or heard them play, just imagine if Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and The Black Crowes had a baby together. Yes, not the greatest visual. However, I’m not sure how else to describe them.

A Thousand Horses has their own look, their own sound, and a stage presence that captivates their audience from the first note. The entire band gives 110% every time they hit the stage, but they also take the time to engage with their fans. There is nothing else like A Thousand Horses on the radio today and that’s a damn shame! To put it bluntly: A Thousand Horses is what country music needs right here…and right now.

Sure, A Thousand Horses may not yet have the pedigree of any of the aforementioned bands just yet, but give it time. I have a feeling that we’ll be hearing from these guys for many years to come. Having been on tour with the likes of Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker and more, these guys are getting exposure in front of tens of thousands of concert goers every night, and I see a headlining stadium tour of their own in the coming years.

For a little background, the band consists of four core members (but there are a bunch more):

Michael Hobby – Lead Vocal
Bill Satcher – Lead Guitar
Zach Brown – Guitar and Vocal
Graham Deloach – Bass and Vocal

While the mixed Southern Rock/Country genre is not new, it’s refreshing to hear these days. From songs like “Sunday Morning”, co-written with Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes and arguably the best track on the album, to “Landslide”, a favorite of mine which grasps the spirit of the working man (and often leads off their live show) A Thousand Horses demonstrates that they can do it all, and not miss a beat from Track 1 to 13.

“Tennessee Whiskey” showcases the band’s Southern roots as it shows emotional heartbreak in the form of a conversation with none other than the iconic drink. Yep. It plays just like it sounds. “Trailer Trashed” brings out the redneck side of the band, “Southernality” gets back to their southern roots and “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial”, the band’s second single, tells the story of singer Michael Hobby looking for a second chance in a relationship gone wrong.

Here’s the video for “Southernality”:

But most people will know the band from their #1 hit, “Smoke”, which has made A Thousand Horses a household name. Great vocals. Great rhythm. It’s certainly catchy and, like I have said over and over again, this is the type of song, and band, that country radio needs right now!

 

Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark , while not the biggest name in country music today, is certainly a superstar in my books.

Clark hails from Morton, Washington, a logging town of less than 1,000 people, located in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. Growing up, she was influenced by a variety of country music artists including Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. She first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and made her singing debut in school musicals. When she entered her first year of college, she started to get more serious about music, taking guitar lessons and joining a band along with her mother and a friend. As a teenager, she discovered the music business program at Belmont University, so she enrolled and moved to Nashville in 1998. After graduation, Clark landed a job with Leadership Music, which led to her eventual publishing deal.

Clark excels at her storytelling through her music. She is far and away one of the greatest songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of listening to and her live performances only extenuate her talent. You might not be aware of this, but she’s written for a number of artists including: The Band Perry (Better Dig Two) and Miranda Lambert (Mama’s Broken Heart).

Clark has a new album out, “Big Day in a Small Town“, which tells the stories of the football star, the father, the homecoming queen and the hairdresser. Why? Because those are the stories and people that Clark grew up knowing in her “small town”.

Artists like Brandy Clark are what country music needs. I can’t stress her songwriting talents enough. I could never do justice. Don’t believe me? Go take a listen. I guarantee you’ll be hooked right away.Here’s a sample of what Clark is all about with “Girl Next Door”:

 

Casey James

Casey James is a singer and guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas, who was the third-place finalist on the ninth season of American Idol and is an independent recording artist. Before American Idol, he played with his band, The Casey James Band, consisting of James, his brother, Billy Cole (bass), and Jacy McCann (drums). They recorded four songs, including the first song that James ever wrote, “Freezing,” back in 2002.

But James musical career started well before The Casey James Band. He started playing the guitar at 13 and within a year was playing on stage. James has played acoustic sets with his mother, and blues with his older brother. At the age of 21, he was in a serious motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life. He was told by his doctor that he would no longer be able to play guitar, a medical prediction that proved untrue.

He released his eponymous album in March 2012 from which three singles, “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night”, “Crying on a Suitcase”, and “The Good Life” were released. In 2014, he released the single “Fall Apart” (see below). While he is currently an independent artist, James is currently working towards releasing a new record and his fans are certainly waiting for news on that!

Cash Creek

Although Cash Creek is a relatively new band on the country music scene, it’s members have enjoyed long histories and friendships together. Each member has carved out their own niche in the music industry as entertainers, road and session musicians, producers, and songwriters.

The list of artists that the members of Cash Creek has worked with is nothing short of impressive. That list includes the likes of Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Trace Adkins, Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr., John Michael Montgomery, Josh Turner, David Lee Murphy and many more. Needless to say, the band knows what it takes to be successful.

OK. I just have to throw this out there. I’m originally from the town of Petaluma, located in Northern California. Much of my family still lives there. So my mom now lives in Hidden Valley Lake (California) and every time I drive up to her house, I have to go through Napa, Angwin and Pope Valley, which is basically a quick stop between the Napa Valley and the Lake Berryessa. So do you want to take a guess where Cash Creek is from? You got it. Pope Valley. Small world, right?

Anyways, I digress. When they formed Cash Creek, they band members knew they wanted to create a sound that would reflect a common vision, and maintain a cohesiveness that would be instantly recognizable, regardless of the song. After taking a listen to their compilation of music, I can definitely say: mission accomplished!

Cash Creek is a unique blending of vocals and guitars, with a little bit of fiddle and mandolin thrown in. Why not, right. The songs and production are of such a high-caliber, it’s hard to believe these guys are self-produced. With their distinctive sound, and especially the catchy hooks, you’re going to want to listen to Cash Creek over and over again.

Here is a taste of their latest “She Got Me”:

Also check out “Even Angels Have Bad Day”:

Drew Baldridge

Drew Baldridge is a singer songwriter at heart. According to some background research I’ve done, he grew up playing basketball and baseball, but would perform the National Anthem at all his games. As a teenager, he joined a quartet at church singing bass while his father sang tenor. Later on, he played acoustic gigs at a nearby bar on Saturday nights. Not a bad way to break into the business.

In 2013, Baldridge signed with THiS Music, joining the company of a number of the most prominent and prolific songwriters in Nashville. Soon after, he released his debut EP, All Good and singles “BYOB” and “She’s Taken” apparently became radio staples across the Midwest. Living on the West Coast, I had yet to be exposed to him.

Known as much as a performer as a singer, Baldridge brings an energy-packed show to every performance. Doesn’t matter if he’s opening, or the headliner. He’ll always give you 100%. No less. Over the past few years, Baldridge has shared the stage with artists such as Alabama, Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Jerrod Niemann, Phil Vassar, Lee Brice, Eric Paslay, Parmalee and Josh Turner among others.

Baldridge released his full-length debut album titled Dirt on Us earlier this year and features 13 tracks, 11 of which Baldridge co-wrote. If you’re a fan already, you might recognize a few of the songs from his previous EPs.

In the mood for a little dancing? Enjoy a little “Dance With Ya”:

 

Halfway to Hazard

Chad Warrix and David Tolliver, better known as the group Halfway to Hazard, can only be described with the same words I’ve used here on my blog for years, “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.” Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s two of my favorite things when it comes to music. And they live up to that descriptor. From what I’ve seen, the group holds nothing back in their music. In fact, if they were in NASCAR, I’d say that they put the pedal to the metal and don’t look back until they cross the finish line.

Their debut single, “Daisy“, was a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts way back in 2007. That same year, the band toured as the opening act on Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul Tour. In 2008, they went on tour with McGraw and a youngster by the name of Jason Aldean. They were also nominated by the Academy of Country Music (ACM) for the Duo of the Year award. Not a bad two year stretch, right?

Sadly, in January of 2010, the duo went on an extended hiatus. After some ups and downs over the next few years, Tolliver and Warrix decided to officially reunite Halfway to Hazard in late 2014…and I for one am glad they did!

Released earlier this year, the song from Halfway to Hazard that I’m absolutely hooked on is “American Outlaw”. Check it out:

 

High Valley

High Valley is a Canadian country music duo from Blumenort, Alberta, a small community near La Crete. The band originally began as a trio of brothers, but Bryan Rempel dropped out in 2014 to focus on his family.

High Valley’s album Broken Borders was named Album of the Year at the 2007 GMA Canada Covenant Awards, while the song “Back to You” was awarded Country Song of the Year. High Valley’s second album, High Valley, was released in Canada and the United States on September 14, 2010. In 2011 the band won five GMA Canada Covenant Awards, including Artist of the Year and Group of the Year. Their third album, Love Is a Long Road, was released on June 12, 2012.

In October 2015, High Valley signed to Atlantic Records Nashville. Shortly after that, the single “Make You Mine” was released here in the United States to country radio and debuted at number 56 on the U.S. Country chart. The band has just released their fifth studio album, Dear Life, through Atlantic Records and Warner Music Nashville and it is certainly one to take a listen to.

Check out “Make You Mine”:

Jackie Lee

Jackie Lee was only six years old when he stepped into a professional recording studio to cut songs with famed country songwriter, musician and producer Carson Chamberlain (Keith Whitley/ Easton Corbin). Lee’s father was a devoted fan of traditional country music, while his mother enjoyed pop hits from the 1980s. As a youngster, he  found himself influenced by everyone from Bob Seger to Justin Timberlake.

After high school, Lee headed to Nashville, and at the age of 19, he signed a recording contract with Republic Nashville. However the deal with Republic ended without the artist releasing anything for the label, and Lee was looking for another chance. He heard a demo of a song called “She Does,” and was curious about the tune until he was told Kenny Chesney had plans to record it. Chesney eventually passed on the tune, which worked out in Lee’s favor when he landed a new record deal with the independent Nashville label Broken Bow. Lee and his team decided “She Does” was the perfect song for his recording debut, and when his version was released in the fall of 2014, it soon landed on the Billboard Country Airplay charts.

His new single, “Getting Over You”, is just hitting country radio and made quite an impression on the audience. Make sure to keep an eye out for it and start requesting it right away. This song has what it takes to quickly climb the charts.

Take a listen:

 

Jacob Davis

At the age of fifteen, Jacob Davis picked up a guitar and started singing in his Shreveport, Louisiana bedroom. But it wasn’t until an open mic night during his junior year of college that he would ever perform on a stage.

Sounds like the kind of story that leads to a successful country music career, right?

What first got me interested in Davis, other than the positive feedback I received from his legion of fans, is his apparent love for 90’s country music. Let me tell you this, I was raised on country music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and have a particular love for the music of the 90’s (and not just country music). This is the time period where  I was in Junior High, High School and College. Music was a major part of my life, and I’m glad that this decade proved inspirational to others.

So here’s what I really like about Davis: it’s all about his music.

The first song I heard was “Down to Earth”. Good melody. Catchy lyrics. Simple. But then I read a little deeper into the meaning of the song and of course it’s a song about the birth of his daughter. Naturally, I had to listen. Having two daughters of my own, I know the feelings he’s expressing. Nailed it!

Another song I enjoyed was “Sooner than Later”. After hearing a couple of ballads, I loved the upbeat nature of the song. The lyrics also stood out. “She’s laying warm against my skin.” “She’s gonna love too hot…and burn too fast.” Who can’t relate to that.

“Something to Remember You By” is another one that caught my attention. With lyrics such as “I look around anytime, anyplace, they’ll always be something to remember you by” how can you not relate to that. Check it out:

 

One other song to throw out there is “See You Around”. Just for another example:

James Wesley

James Wesley grew up in Mound Valley, a community of only 200 people in Southeastern Kansas. He first discovered country music via his grandmother’s record collection, which included heaping helpings of classic crooners such as Marty Robbins, George Jones and Ray Price. His mother was the first to notice Wesley’s own talent for singing when she overheard him belting out his favorite songs behind his bedroom door. By his late teens he was singing in local nightclubs and beginning to think about making music his life.

I can certainly say that i’m glad he made this decision.

Wesley signed with Broken Bow Records back in 2009 and quickly exploded onto the country music scene with his debut breakout single “Jackson Hole.” To date he has had two Top 25 singles, including “Didn’t I” and one of my personal favorites “Real”, making his voice a staple on country radio. If you’ve ever seen Wesley in concert, then you know that he sings directly to real people about real things that profoundly affect real lives. From his small-town upbringing to his blue-collar work ethic, Wesley has a deep understanding of what country listeners want to hear.

Wesley is a traditionalist which I find rare in country music these days. He’s also passionate about his music…and his fans. He writes his own songs and he plays his heart out each and every time he takes the stage. During his recent shows I caught in California, Wesley mixed his own music with the sounds of Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash. I’ll admit, anytime you can absolutely NAIL “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Family Tradition”, you’re doing something right!

I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to meet James via Twitter (@jameswesley1) a while back and have had a number of conversations with him over the past few years. You don’t realize that sometimes, just sometimes, artists are exactly the same in-person as they appear online. Wesley truly is one of these people. He doesn’t pull punches. He’s as friendly in-person as he is on Twitter and really makes every effort to get to know each and every one of his fans. I wish more artists would follow his lead.

If you want one example of what Wesley is all about, then take a listen to  “Thank a Farmer” and tell me you don’t want to support this guy:

 

LANco

Formerly known as Lancaster & Company, Sony Music Nashville signed LANco to the label group’s Arista Nashville. The band, consisting of Brandon Lancaster, Tripp Howell, Eric Steedly, Jared Hampton and Chandler Baldwin, released their debut EP on Spotify, featuring the tracks “American Love Story”, “Trouble Maker“, “Long Live Tonight” and “We Do“. You should definitely check it out when you have a few minutes. You won’t regret it. You can find it on iTunes and Amazon.

I actually discovered these guys on a Saturday night back in September of 2015, when I was on a business trip to Atlanta. So I’m checking out the town and I stumble across a venue called Smith’s Olde Bar. Without any plans that evening, I decided to check things out when I heard a familiar tune, “Sweet Caroline”. I’m glad I walked in. Although I only caught a couple songs that night, it gave me an idea of who the band is and what they’re all about. I was very excited to catch them again a few months later, late last year in San Jose. Here’s a clip from the San Jose show covering Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”:

I’ve got to admit, while I loved the energy and crowd interaction of both the Atlanta and San Jose shows, one of my favorite songs they played both nights was the ballad “American Love Story“. This song is your small town love story that many of us can relate to.

Take a listen to “Long Live Tonight”:

 

McKenzies Mill

McKenzies Mill features two brothers from North Carolina, now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded by Justin and Ryan Harris, and backed by the a few of the best musicians around, McKenzies Mill brings its audience what has been described as “Southern Fried Rock & Roll.”

While you might not be familiar with McKenzies Mill (yet), the duo is in no way a newcomer to the music scene. They’ve been featured at NASCAR’s Speed Street Fest in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at BayFest in Mobile, Alabama. They’ve also been featured alongside artists such as Brad Paisley and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

In terms of music, McKenzies Mill has released two albums, “One Hell of a Ride” and a self-titled album, “McKenzies Mill”. In 2014, they were named a Band to Watch by CMA Close-Up magazine back and the duo also won Bud Light’s National Battle of the Bands back in 2012.

In addition, last September, the duo released two new singles, “Middle of Nowhere” & “Willie”. Here’s a clip:

 

Ryan Follese

I first came across Big Machine Label Group recording artist Ryan Follese (that’s “fall-uh-ZAY”) a few weeks ago when I heard the folks at KRTY promoting that he would be opening for both Cassadee Pope and the Eli Young Band in San Jose.

Follese  co-wrote each of the six tracks on his self-titled debut solo EP, including “Put A Label On It,” which hit country radio earlier this month as his first official single. Additionally, SiriusXM kickstarted the launch this summer, selecting Follese as their “Highway Find” and spinning his summer vacation anthem “Float Your Boat.” Selling more than 40,000 downloads to date, and amassing nearly 2 million streams, the Ryan Follese EP was recorded with producers Dann Huff and Cameron Montgomery in Nashville. While the aforementioned songs might have received the notoriety to date, don’t miss other great tracks such as “Wilder“, “One Thing Right” and “Lose a Little Sleep“. “Wilder” might be my favorite of the bunch.

Here’s a tidbit on Follese that you may, or may not be aware of: he originally hit it big on the pop scene. During his successful run fronting the band Hot Chelle Rae, Follese co-wrote their #1 hit “Tonight, Tonight” and toured around the globe, featuring arena dates with none other than Taylor Swift. What really stands out for me is how Follese has seamlessly transitioned from pop-rock to country music. I’ve seen a number of artists go the other direction, and a few that have tried to join the country ranks, but I have a feeling that we’ll look back in a few years and realize that Follese made the right decision.

Anyways, here’s Follese’s first single, “Put a Label on It”. Enjoy:

 

Steve Moakler

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Steve Moakler moved to Nashville back in 2006, honing his craft in a town where the best singers and songwriters go to find their country music dreams. After performing hundreds of live, local performances, Moakler placed a series of songs with several country artists, including Dierks Bentley, Kellie Pickler and Jake Owen. He also released three independent albums, including 2011’s Watching Time Run, which Moakler funded via a Kickstarter campaign.

Did you know that Moakler co-wrote Bentley‘s hit single, “Riser,”  with Travis Meadows? Yep. What I love about this song, and frankly, every song I’ve heard of his, is that he pours his heart and soul into his music. You can tell that we he plays, he’s playing from the heart. Each and every song tells a story, and that’s something that’s missing in country music today. Moakler isn’t up in your face. Rather, he takes the time to draw you in with lyrical poetry and brings it home with smooth, flawless guitar playing that gets your toes tapping along with the beat.

Moakler’s “Suitcase” was crafted with writers including Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Thomas Rhett. In my opinion, the song deserves more radio airplay than it’s currently seeing. A few stations have been great in getting this song out there, now the word just needs to be spread even more because it’s a hit in waiting.

 

Waterloo Revival

Back when Cody Cooper met George Birge in their Austin, Texas middle school, he inspired him to express himself through music. Good thing because this took them down a path that affected both of their lives.

Later, the duo, now known as Waterloo Revival, began sampling tunes during Nashville songwriter showcases, adopting the town as their new home. They soon caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, President and CEO of Big Machine Label Group, and signed a deal with Big Machine Records just one week later.

While “Hit the Road” and “Bad for You” have found a place on country radio, and have received a positive response from programmers, critics and listeners, Waterloo Revival has a few additional songs that could certainly find their way on the radio.

 

The band’s six song EP, Front Row, came out earlier this year and is available now on iTunes and contains a number of the songs listed above. If you like what you’ve heard (and read), be sure to go pick it up right away.

Concert Review: James Wesley Crashes California

October 1, 2016

While the past two days in California have been a real whirlwind, I have to say that they have been two of the most fun I have ever had in my 30+ years of attending concerts (that’s right, I saw my first actual concert at the age of 7).

Not only did I have the opportunity to catch one James Wesley show (at the San Benito County Fair), I had just enough time before my Saturday morning flight out of San Jose to take in a second the following night at Mavericks Country Lounge in Pleasanton.

jw_group

 

So where to begin…

If you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, and can actually say that you don’t know who Wesley is, then let me quickly educate you for a moment. With radio hits such as “Real”, “Didn’t I”, “Jackson Hole” and “Thank a Farmer”, Wesley has been getting airplay for quite some time now across the country. Special thanks go out to a number of  California stations such as 95.3 KRTY, KAT Country 103 and 101.9 The Wolf  who continue to keep Wesley on their playlists.

But let’s be REAL for a second. To this day, Wesley is not getting enough airplay (in my opinion) and I can’t stress enough that if you see him in concert one time, you’ll be hooked.

jw_jk

Now, before I go too far, I can’t forget the rest of the band including Michael Blakemore, Jesse LaFave, Neil Alexander and Travis Laws because they’re pretty damn good at what they do. To be a successful solo artist, you need a supporting cast that plays as a team. Cohesion, combined with hard work and dedication, is key to a successful live show. These guys have all of these attributes, and I would have to say that they are some of the hardest workers in the industry and deserve to be recognized for the effort they put in night in and night out to make a James Wesley show what it is.

Now onto the show itself.

jw1

People often ask me: what’s the best way to describe a James Wesley show? How about high energy. How about highly entertaining. How about worth every penny. Do you get the idea? I’ll put it another way: just like me, it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll! I could go on and on with descriptors but I don’t want to bore you with my ranting.

jw_band3

 

Most importantly, he’s also VERY passionate about his music and his fans. He writes, or co-writes most of his own songs and both he, and the band, play their heart out each and every time they take the stage. Plus, Wesley is one of those guys on Twitter (@jameswesley1) who loves to engage with his fans. Make sure to give him a follow and check him out on Facebook. Trust me. He’s as friendly in-person as he is on Twitter and really makes every effort to get to know each and every one of his fans. I wish more artists would follow his lead.

Now, back to the show(s). Besides the staple set list songs that I mentioned earlier (Jackson Hole, Real, Didn’t I, Thank a Farmer) we were also treated once again with a selection of “new” songs that haven’t made it on the radio yet.

Heck, maybe we can find them on an album in the near future (side note for Broken Bow Records: I would LOVE to see a James Wesley live album to showcase his talent).

jw_band1

 

I’ve said this before, but i want to be sure that I touch upon this again in this review: there are a few songs that I expect will be hits in the near future, if given the opportunity. These songs include: “Cornfield”, “Trouble I Like”, “The You I Wanna Know”, “Running” (co-written with Marcum Stewart and Zac Wrixon), “You Should Be Here with Me”, “Do What You Gotta Do” and “See You on the Radio”. These are just a few songs that continue to stick out for me as having the potential to be radio hits. The later, was the closing song on the set for this show and it certainly has the legs to make a solid run on country radio.

Other songs, such as “Rooster” and “Walking Contradiction” are two that always jump out at me during the live shows. Both of these tunes always get the crowd on their feet, and at both shows this week, I can safely say that they did it again. Particularly at the Pleasanton show where you had scores of attendees performing aerial dance maneuvers during each.

But while it’s always great to hear original songs, let’s not forget about the beauty of the cover song. Especially at a live show. One thing that Wesley and the band like to do is mix their own music with the sounds of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash. Some “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Mama Tried”. A little “White Lightning”. Even an encore of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Fantastic stuff.

As always, I’ve done a lot of talking here. But Wesley and his band are worth my gift of gab. I do want to reiterate this once again: there are only a few artists that I give a five star recommendation to. James Wesley is one of them. If there is one artist that you see in concert in the coming year, make sure that it’s Wesley.

From he and the band’s stage presence, to the love of the music to the time he and the band spend with their fans, it is not just a concert. It really is an experience that music lovers of all ages, and across genres, will enjoy. Trust me, you won’t regret spending $10, $15, $20 or more to see these guys live!

I didn’t get to mention that I was able to enjoy the company of Wesley and the band following both shows: once at Wingstop (Hollister) and once at In n Out (Pleasanton). It was fun to just hang out and chat. Talk about the shows. The music business. Our friends and family. Sports. Whatever there is to talk about at 2 a.m. It’s the little things like this that remind you that musicians are people…just like us. They go to work. They have families. They spend a lot of time on the road. Sometimes we all just need to sit back and realize that we have one life to live…and enjoy it! It certainly seems like these guys are doing just that!

So that’s it. Two more shows in the books. I had a fantastic time and as I sit here at the airport, getting ready for my flight back to Portland, I’m once again going back through the photos and videos and realizing what a great two days it was!

So have you seen Wesley and the band in concert? What did you think? Please leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear about your similar experiences!

Artist Spotlight: Michael Beck

May 22, 2016

A few days ago, I was talking about California Grown country music artists. You know, the performers that we get to see here on the West Coast who have yet to be discovered in Nashville. It’s amazing how lucky we are to have such great talent on this side of the Rockies.

I was fortunate enough to catch one recently opening for James Wesley at The District in Gilroy. His name? Michael Beck.

Beck_Wesley

Beck is a local guy from the Bay Area (who actually graduated from George Fox University just 10 minutes down the road from me here in Oregon). Influenced by many of the greatest country music artists of all time, his style has a familiar feel to it, yet he comes off as both unique and highly entertaining. Backed by an energetic band, known as the Michael Beck Band, every performance is a blast and is also fun for all ages.

Trust me when I say I’d love to take my kids to one of his shows with their love for live, country performances.

Beck1

Now, let me repeat myself again for those of you who may have missed it earlier: California grown country artists don’t always get the attention they deserve, but this is an artist that Nashville needs to take notice of…and they need to take notice right away.

Man. What a voice and stage presence that screams “Forget your drink…pay attention to me”. Most young artists can come off as unpolished or even unentertaining. Beck is nothing of the sort. He makes the audience want to get up out of their seats and sing along with every song.

At the James Wesley show, he played a number of songs from his CD “Countin’ on Tennessee” (available on iTunes) as well as an assortment of cover songs from the likes of Jon Pardi (Head Over Boots) and David Lee Murphy (Dust on the Bottle). From the EP, songs such as “Tennessee”, “Gone from My Mind“, “Paradice”, “Long Gone” and “The Reason (I Love the Rain)” all have the potential to be hits. Seriously, the EP is THAT good.

TEnnessee

What are you waiting for. Go get it now!

However, one song that stood out to me, and I know is a personal favorite of Beck’s, is “Little Piece of Heaven”. To me, nothing is better than a song that is written from the heart, about someone you love. In this case, Beck’s 18 month old daughter. Haven’t seen this available online yet (it’s just too new), but in the coming months, if you’re looking for a song that’s destined to be a hit, this is it.

I mentioned that Beck loves to throw in a few covers during his live shows. Check out a few of them below:

Head Over Boots

Cruise

Copperhead Road

Gone Country

Boot Scootin Boogie

Friends in Low Places

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If you want to learn more about this up-and-coming artist, be sure to visit his website, where you can also pick up the CD. Also check out the entire Michael Beck Band on Facebook for more information on news and upcoming shows. These guys are amazing!

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Hey…how about a couple shows up here in Oregon?? Would love to introduce the Pacific Northwest to some real, California country music.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Michael Beck live? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Concert Review: James Wesley and Michael Beck Bring “Real” Country Music to Gilroy, California

May 14, 2016

Just when you think a country music artist can’t get any better, they come back to town and leave you speechless. This is the only way that I can describe the latest performance from recording artist James Wesley’s this past week at The District, a fantastic new venue located in Gilroy, California, which featured Michael Beck of the Michael Beck Band as the opening act.

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Michael Beck and James Wesley (Credit: Patti Galiano)

 

If you don’t know Wesley already, then let me quickly educate you for a moment. With hits such as “Real”, “Didn’t I”, “Jackson Hole” and “Thank a Farmer”, Wesley has been getting airplay for quite some time now across the country. Special thanks go out to a number of  California stations such as 95.3 KRTY, KAT Country 103 and 101.9 The Wolf  who continue to keep Wesley on their playlists.

But let’s be real for a second. To this day, he’s still not getting enough airplay (in my opinion) and I can’t stress enough that if you see him in concert one time, you’ll be hooked. Wait. Did I just say hooked? More on that later…

Before I go too far, and jump into my review of this show, I can’t forget the rest of the band including Michael Blakemore, Jesse LaFave and Matt Morgeson because they’re pretty damn good at what they do too. But you get my point!

Anyway, on to the show itself.

First, a little backstory. This show was originally scheduled to take place at a venue that won’t be mentioned, but on two days notice, had to be moved to another location, the aforementioned The District. While this change of plans didn’t make things easy for fans wanting to catch Wesley live, an enthusiastic crowd still made the trek to show their support. Those who came were treated to a night of fun and GREAT music!

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Hanging with James Wesley Post-Show (Credit: Patti Galiano)

Michael Beck took the stage first as the opening act. Beck is a local guy from the Bay Area (who by the way graduated from George Fox University just 10 minutes down the road from me here in Oregon). I know that California grown country artists don’t always get the attention they deserve, but this is an artist that Nashville needs to take notice of.

Man. What a voice and stage presence that screams “Forget your drink…pay attention to me”. Most young artists can come off as unpolished or even unentertaining. Beck is nothing of the sort. He makes the audience want to get up out of their seats and sing along with every song. His setlist included songs from his CD “Countin’ on Tennessee” as well as an assortment of cover songs from the likes of Jon Pardi (Head Over Boots) and David Lee Murphy (Dust on the Bottle).

From the EP, songs such as “Tennessee”, “Paradice” and “The Reason (I Love the Rain)” were a few of my favorites. But the one song that stood out to me, and I know is a personal favorite of Beck’s, is “Little Piece of Heaven”. To me, nothing is better than a song that is written from the heart, about someone you love. In this case, Beck’s 18 month old daughter. If you’re looking for a song that’s destined to be a hit, this is it.

Check out Beck’s cover of “Head Over Boots” here.

Want to learn more about this up-and-coming artist, visit his website, where you can also pick up the CD. Also check out the entire Michael Beck Band on Facebook for more information on news and upcoming shows.

Around 9:30 p.m., it was time for the main event of the evening: James Wesley.

So how do I describe James Wesley as an artist? Simple. He is a traditionalist, which is something that is rare in country music these days.

Most importantly, he’s also VERY passionate about his music and his fans. He writes, or co-writes most of his own songs and both he, and the band, play their heart out each and every time they take the stage. Plus, Wesley is one of those guys on Twitter (@jameswesley1) who loves to engage with his fans. Make sure to give him a follow and check him out on Facebook.

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Credit: Patti Galiano

How would I describe a James Wesley show? How about high energy. Absolutely entertaining. Just like me, it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll! I could go on and on with descriptors but I don’t want to bore you with my ranting.

Besides the staple set list songs that I mentioned earlier (Jackson Hole, Real, Didn’t I) we were also treated once again with a selection of “new” songs that haven’t made it on the radio yet.

Heck, maybe we can find them on an album in the near future?

I’ve said this before, but just to reiterate, there are a few songs that I expect to be hits in the near future, including: “The You I Wanna Know”, “Running” (co-written with Marcum Stewart and Zac Wrixon) and “See You on the Radio” are just a few songs that continue to stick out for me as having the potential to be radio hits. The later, was the closing song on the set for this show and it certainly has the legs to make a solid run on country radio.

Check out a live clip of “Real” here.

Check out a live clip of “Running” here.

But let’s not forget about the beauty of the cover song. One thing that Wesley and the band like to do is mix their own music with the sounds of Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam and George Jones. Some “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive”. A little “White Lightning”. Fantastic stuff.

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Credit: Patti Galiano

I mentioned earlier that if you see Wesley in concert one time you’ll be hooked. Well, now you can officially get “Hooked Up” with Wesley’s newest single by the same name.

Back in April of last year, officials from Big Rock Sports, LLC announced that Calcutta®, a proprietary brand of Big Rock Sports, partnered with Wesley to produce the single and music video “Hooked Up”. The music video was shot last year during a concert that Wesley performed at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament weigh station on the Morehead City, North Carolina waterfront. In case you’re wondering, he and the band will be back at the tournament on June 17. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

Anyways, the song, which tells the story of anglers chasing blue marlin—through the eyes of the marlin—at the Big Rock, was released through iTunes, CalcuttaFishing.com, and Thebigrock.com so you will definitely want to check this out. Wesley and the band played it live for the first time at this show last year and it was great to hear it again on the set list this year. I am going out on a ledge and say that this will be a radio hit in the very near future. Do you hear that country radio? It’s time to get this song on the air!

Check out a live clip of “Hooked Up” here.

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Credit: Patti Galiano

 

So as always, I’ve talked your ear off. But let me say this once again: there are only a few artists that I give a five star recommendation to. James Wesley is one of them. If there is one artist that you see in concert in the next year, make sure that it’s Wesley.

From he and the band’s stage presence, to the love of the music to the time he and the band spend with their fans, it is not just a concert. It really is an experience that music lovers of all ages, and across genres, will enjoy. Trust me, you won’t regret spending $10, $15, $20 or more to see these guys live!

 

Have you seen Wesley and the band in concert? What did you think? Please leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear about your similar experiences!

New Music Review: “Hooked Up” by James Wesley

September 21, 2015

James Wesley is back, and he’s back in a big way!

The last time many of you heard from Wesley, he was hitting the airwaves with “Thank a Farmer”, a heartfelt ballad which tells the story of how much hard work it takes to be a farmer in Middle America. And it doesn’t come much more Middle America than Wesley’s music.

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First, a little background. Wesley grew up in Mound Valley, a community of only 200 people in Southeastern Kansas. He first discovered country music via his grandmother’s record collection, which included heaping helpings of classic crooners such as Marty Robbins, George Jones and Ray Price. His mother was the first to notice Wesley’s own talent for singing when she overheard him belting out his favorite songs behind his bedroom door. By his late teens he was singing in local nightclubs and beginning to think about making music his life.

I can certainly say that i’m glad he made this decision.

Wesley signed with Broken Bow Records back in 2009 and quickly exploded onto the country music scene with his debut breakout single “Jackson Hole.” To date he has had two Top 25 singles, including one of my personal favorites “Real”, making his voice a staple on country radio. If you’ve ever seen Wesley in concert, then you know that he sings directly to real people about real things that profoundly affect real lives. From his small-town upbringing to his blue-collar work ethic, Wesley has a deep understanding of what country listeners want to hear.

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Now, on to the song. “Hooked Up” was co-written by Harry Smith and Todd Morris, and tells the story of a blue marlin that is being pursued by fisherman at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. Announced backed in April, Wesley formed a partnership with Calcutta to shoot the “Hooked Up” music video and promote the song to the sport fishing communities.

The accompanying music video for “Hooked Up” takes fans along with him for the journey of a lifetime. The video was shot during a concert, performed by Wesley, which took place at the new Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament weigh station on the Morehead City, North Carolina waterfront. Additional footage was shot during the tournament between June 6–13.

OK, before I tell you why I love this song, go ahead and check out the video for yourself.

Now you’ve seen the video and heard the song for yourself. Admit it, there’s so much to love about “Hooked Up”. It’s so easy to get hooked by the chorus. It’s upbeat. It’s toe tapping. I’ve listened to the song a good 70-75 times now, and each time I get to the chorus, I find myself belting out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. Sadly, the kids keep telling me to leave the singing to the artist. They’re probably right!

But isn’t that what country music is all about? Isn’t it supposed to make you feel passion? Shouldn’t it make you want to sing along at the top of your lungs? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: country radio NEEDS more James Wesley. Is “Hooked Up” the song that takes him back to the top of the charts? I certainly hope so. I think it certainly has a chance!

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I’ll admit, I have a personal connection to the song. It doesn’t make me biased. Anyone who knows me knows that I shoot from the hip in all of my reviews. This review is no different.

My step father, who passed away this past March, was a fisherman his entire life. He used to tell all those fish stories that you always hear about. Catching the “big one” and “the one that got away”. He told them all. He participated in tournaments around the country. He spent years in Alaska. He even owned his own charter in Bodega Bay/Tomales Bay, California. Bald Eagle Fishing. I’ll never forget it.

The first time I heard the song was only a few short weeks after he passed. At the time I was devastated (after losing my birth father only 6 months earlier). That first time brought tears streaming down my face. Just listening to the lyrics reminded me of all of the good times. The fishing stories. Knowing that he would have absolutely LOVED this song. Hearing “Hooked Up” for the first time brought a smile back to my face for the first time in weeks.

That’s the mark of a great song. Bringing pure emotion out of me…the listener. That’s what great music is all about, right?

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Before I forget, a portion of the proceeds from downloads will go to the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament Charities and the ASA’s Keep America Fishing Foundation, so make sure you download “Hooked Up” today from iTunes or from CalcuttaFishing.com and TheBigRock.com.

Also, can’t forget the guys who don’t always get the credit they deserve. Michael Blakemore, Jesse LaFave, Matt Morgeson and Drew Scheuer. You guys all rock!

Don’t wait. Go get “Hooked Up” now. You won’t regret it!

For more information about Wesley, and to take a listen to the rest of his catalog, visit JamesWesleyMusic.com.

Half Year in Review: My Top 20 Country Music Songs of 2015…So Far

May 27, 2015

It’s that time of year again where I like to take a quick look at my favorite country music songs of the year so far. We’re just about at the halfway point so now is as good a time as any, right?

Now, let me preface this list as I always do.

  • I’m not a professional music reviewer.
  • I don’t get paid to promote artists.
  • I don’t go by Billboard or radio airplay charts.

This list consists of the top 20 songs that I like so far in 2015. The songs that I wanted to come on my radio while driving to and from work, on a road trip, or when I was just sitting at home. Also, you’ll notice that a lot of mainstream, radio hits by major artists are not included. No reason except for the fact that my list is not based on how famous you are. Simple as that. It’s the songs that I love (but please feel free to sway me in your direction if I left a song off).

You probably heard some of these songs every hour (on the hour) on your local country station. Others may not have been played much (if at all) when they should have been, in my own, personal opinion. Also, while some of these songs may have come out in late 2014, they were ones that were predominantly played (if they made the radio) so far in the 2015 calendar year. Others may be primed for success later this year so keep your ears open!

Either way, I’m sure that I’m going to leave quite a few songs off this list that could have easily made it. I know this going in and expect each and every one of you to say “hey, what about this song…or that song.” Please do. Fight for the music and artists that YOU love!!!!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go through each entry and provide detailed background on the song, reasons for it’s placement, etc…But, feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to respond.

And now, Without further ado, let’s get this party started with a tie at #20. Sorry, couldn’t drop either of these songs out of my Top 20.

(T) 20. “Kiss You in the Morning”, Michael Ray

(T) 20. “Nothin’ Like You”, Dan & Shay

19. “Better Than You Left Me”, Mickey Guyton

18. “My Mistake”, Cam

17. “It Feels Good”, Drake White

16. “Break Up with Him”, Old Dominion

15. “Young & Crazy”, Frankie Ballard

14. “I Love This Life”, LoCash

13. “Sippin’ on Fire”, Florida Georgia Line

12. “Love Me Like You Mean It”, Kelsea Ballerini

11. “All Country on You”, Austin Webb

10. “Love You Like That”, Canaan Smith

9. “She Don’t Love You”, Eric Paslay

8. “Biscuits”, Kacey Musgraves

7. “Hooked Up”, James Wesley

6. “Don’t It”, Billy Currington

5. “Trailer Hitch”, Kristian Bush

4. “Country”, Mo Pitney

3. “Girl Crush”, Little Big Town

2. “Homegrown”, Zac Brown Band

1. “Smoke”, A Thousand Horses

Well that’s it. My Top 20 of 2015…so far!

Where did I hit the nail on the head? Where did the arrow miss the mark? Let me know in the comments below!

Concert Review: Chris Cagle Gets “Back in the Saddle” with Haley & Michaels in San Jose, California

April 17, 2015

When KRTY announces that they are putting on a show that will blow you away, it’s not just hot air.

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For the past few weeks, the Bay Area country music scene has been waiting for Chris Cagle to descend upon San Jose, and his latest trip to the Rodeo Club. Cagle has been here before, and he will no doubt be back again, but in speaking with some “newbies” to the club last night before the show, they weren’t sure what to expect. They had never been to a KRTY show (blasphemy!) and had never seen Cagle live before.

Naturally I told them that they were in for a night that they’d never forget…and I’m not just saying that because we are Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers. The guy is literally one of the hardest working performers in country music and ALWAYS puts on a show to be remembered for his fans. Not to mention he’s a great follow on Twitter at @chriscagle.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Before Cagle took the stage around 9:45 p.m., we were treated to a set by the up-and-coming duo Haley & Michaels (Shannon Haley & Ryan Michaels).

via Margo Lang

via Margo Lang

So here’s the story on these two. It turns out that they grew up only a few miles apart here in Northern California, but get this, they didn’t know each other until well after they separately started their country music careers in Nashville. Shortly after meeting they began singing and writing together and discovered they had a great connection.

What I love about Haley & Michaels is that they have this mix of vocals and harmonies that carry them through their set. You probably know them from their debut single “Just Another Love Song”, which of course was the highlight of their performance. Naturally, the crowd at the Rodeo Club was singing along to every note.

The folks at KRTY have been standing firmly behind Haley & Michaels, as I’ve seen them a few times now and each time I feel as though I enjoy them more and more. They may not be a household name to you just yet, but they have been touring with and opening shows for major acts including Brett Eldredge, Parmalee, Clint Black, Hank Williams Jr., Dustin Lynch and Martina McBride.

If you see them on the bill as an opening act, make sure you’re not late to the show. You won’t be disappointed. BTW they are getting married next month so make sure to stop by their Facebook page and give them your best wishes!

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Speaking of not being disappointed, if there is one country music artist that is guaranteed to not disappoint, it certainly would be Chris Cagle.

What can I say…I’ve been a fan of Cagle dating back to his debut album, Play it Loud. And what’s not to love. We’re talking “My Love Goes On and On”, “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” and my personal favorite “Laredo”. Some classic songs from a great album that you still hear on the radio today.

On this night, Cagle pulled out all of the stops. Whether it’s a club show or a much larger venue, Cagle knows what it takes to be an entertainer. And that’s what the KRTY crowd was treated to…entertainment. From the moment he took the stage, until the band took their final bows, it was a non-stop mix of country, rock and rolls and emotional ballads.

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I’ll admit, I’ve never seen an artist overcome with so much emotion during a show. During a short pause while performing “Miss Me Baby”, the San Jose crowd let Cagle know exactly how much they appreciated him. Without exaggeration, he was given a 5-6 minute standing ovation that went “on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on” (sorry, I had to do it). You could see in his eyes that he truly appreciated the love from the crowd, needing to step back a few times to withhold tears.

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It really was a magical moment, and one that this artist deserved after so many years of doing what he does for us, the country music listener. These are the types of moments that you get when you come to the Rodeo Club…and I thank KRTY for bringing him to town so I can experience them.

The rest of the set was exactly what you would expect. We were treated to classic Cagle, as well as a few new songs including “Got My Country On” and “I’ll Grow My Own” from his latest album “Back in the Saddle” which concluded the set. Normally, like most people, when the new stuff comes on, I kind of tune out a little. But not this time. I really liked “I’ll Grow My Own”. It was a good choice to conclude the set…knowing that he and the band had to come out for at least one more song.

For the encore, Cagle went old school southern rock, courtesy of some Lynyrd Skynard. While it may have been a Thursday night, it quickly became a “Saturday Night Special” at the Rodeo Club.  Most people that choose a Skynyrd cover song would pull out “Sweet Home Alabama”, “That Smell” or even “Freebird”, but I love the fact that the band went another direction.

via Margo Lang

via Margo Lang

As expected, “Chicks Dig It” closed out the set. And why not. It’s a great song…one that the audience can sing along to every word of and how can you not have a smile on your face at the same time. It’s the story of a guy who has always done various stunts (most of the time injuring himself in the process) in attempts to impress women, because the “chicks dig it”.

OK guys, raise your hand if you’re guilty of that. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

What can I say that I haven’t said already. From Haley & Michaels, to Chris Cagle (and his band of course), this was another great night of entertainment.

Thank you again to Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens, Tina Ferguson, Gary Scott Thomas, Randy Jones, Indiana Al and the rest of the folks at KRTY for putting on another hell of a night.There’s a reason why KRTY is the number one country music station in the Bay Area. It’s because of the people that work there that put their heart and soul into their jobs and make sure that their audience is treated to the best that country music has to offer.

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But don’t forget, it’s also because of you (and me)…the listeners who come out to the shows and listen every day. I love coming back to the Bay Area for shows like this and I can’t wait for the next one! I’ve got my sights on James Wesley on April 29.

If you’re looking for a few upcoming shows, don’t miss Frankie Ballard (with Clare Dunn) on April 22 and Maddie and Tae (with Logan Mize) the following night on April 23. Both shows take place at the Rodeo Club. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Chris Cagle Set List:

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